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Storyboarding for Games User Research

February 13, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

Storyboarding Player Experience

Visualizing player experience by storyboarding could make difficult-to-interpret GUR data more accessible to a wider game industry audience. Here we point out some key strength of storyboarding approaches for GUR:

Correlation between user research data and gameplay events: Storyboarding would be a powerful tool for tying the GUR findings together, since these findings contain data with a radically different formats (such as qualitative user comments and quantitative game metrics).

For example, in Biometric Storyboards, we use visualization of a player's actions, their biometrics responses, their post-gameplay comments, and gameplay events to help us to better understand and explore correlations between changes in player's feeling and the corresponding events or behaviors.

We saw these storyboards being used to examine behavior of several players during a single game event. Understanding how players are motivated to perform particular tasks in gameplay environments is vital information for game designers.

Comparison of players' behavior: Once we have created a series of these storyboards, we can compare the gameplay journeys of different players and use them to spot key trends in gameplay behavior. Further studies may show the player's background profiles and "psychographics" (motivations) can reflect a regular pattern of behavior and subsequent enjoyment in their corresponding storyboards. Future development of these storyboarding techniques would provide a tool that could be useful to compare gameplay experience in different settings.

Whole session overview: By visualizing the whole gameplay session, storyboarding would help to provide an efficient overview across all events, levels, and missions, enabling the developers to quickly scan for key elements in level design, player performance and player emotions.

Verifying the intended design decisions: We have seen these storyboards being used to compare how players actually felt during game event to what the designer had originally intended players to experience. Storyboards would suitably fit into the design process, enabling designers to verify the success of their game design environment, and judge whether their intended game experience matched the actual player experience.

Simplicity: Storyboards can be formed and iterated based on the demands of game developers to deliver visualizations that are simple, easy to understand and interpret with an immediately apparent benefit.

User-centered Design: GURs have a benefit from understanding of game development process and the relevant needs in the working environment to design visualizations that closely match the requirements and language of target users, and the subsequent level of detail necessary for the task.

Familiarity: Game developers and producers are familiar with storyboards, various data representation techniques and visualizations of game metrics. Similarity between these existing models help to support communication with and between developers and effectively increased the acceptance of new tools.

Support collaboration: Storyboards enable increased collaboration between games user researchers, game designers, other developers, and producers. We saw that producers and designers were able to more effectively discuss design strategy using these storyboards as evidence for player behavior.


Through storyboarding we can visualize and aggregate player data, this would help games user researchers and games development teams to achieve a shared view on critical game design events. Based on our experience, storyboards are not only a powerful tool to explain game design problems but also provide a way to discuss their solutions. They can help the whole team to visualize design problems, the potential solutions, and gameplay areas that need improvement.

Creating data-driven storyboards supports design arguments, so that game designers can see how players would experience their intended designs. These storyboards provide an analytical connection between players and game designers. With these storyboards we can provide engaging and actionable arguments explaining player experience issues to the games development team.

Game events (we call them "game beats") and emotions resulting from those events are at the heart of creating a great player experience. Biometric Storyboards allow us to visualize events in gameplay where player's actions or behaviors lead to change in their emotional states. We already ran several studies with Biometric Storyboards and hope to be able to present our Biometric Storyboards tool for game and player evaluation soon.

Acknowledgment: We would like to thank Mark Knowles, Jason Avent, Graham McAllister, and our interviewees for their contributions to this work. We would also like to thank Gareth R. White, Steve Bromley, and Kate Howland for their encouragement and constructive comments on earlier versions of this article.

More reading: W. Quesenbery and K. Brooks, "Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design, 1st edition," Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design, 1st edition, Apr. 2010.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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